Basketball

Sooners need another solid defensive effort at K-State

Sooners need another solid defensive effort at K-State

A long basketball season in Oklahoma, filled with many ups but also a disproportionate number of downs, is coming to an end.

The regular season finale comes Saturday when the Sooners take on Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. The K-State field hasn’t been a welcoming environment for the Sooners for the past decade.

At a quick glance, you wouldn’t think there would be much at stake in a game between two teams with conference records of 6-11 and tied for eighth in the Big 12 standings. But this is not the case as the Sooners and Wildcats still hold out hope of earning a spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

The winner of Saturday’s game also earns a No. 6 seed in the Big 12 tournament and a coveted bye in next Wednesday’s opener. So there are a lot of stakes for both teams.

Match

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

16-14, 6-11

Kansas State Wildcats Basketball

14-15, 6-11

Saturday March 5

3:00 p.m.

Oklahoma is riding a two-game winning streak and is coming off a 72-59 win and regular-season sweep of West Virginia on Tuesday. K-State nearly accomplished the same against No. 12 Texas Tech earlier this week, but couldn’t hold off the Red Raiders in the final two minutes and fell 73-68 to Lubbock. The Wildcats won the previous game against Texas Tech in Manhattan.

Oklahoma won the previous game with K-State this season, the Big 12 season opener for both teams, 71-69 at Norman, with Elijah Harkless scoring 21 points and hitting the game-winning shot with 38 seconds left. player. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Harkless suffered a season-ending injury in mid-February and won’t be available Saturday.

The Sooners lead the all-time series with Kansas State, but only by a narrow margin of 111-103. But OU is just 36-64 in games played in the Little Apple and hasn’t won there in the last nine visits dating back to 2012.

Ironically, the Sooners’ last win at Kansas State was in by Lon Kruger first season as head coach of Oklahoma. Kruger, of course, played and served as head coach of the Wildcats for four seasons in the late 1980s.

Oklahoma’s struggle to find wins at K-State is matched only by the Sooners’ losses at other school Sunflower State, Kansas, where OU hasn’t won since 1993, a 20-game span .

The OU-Kansas State game is scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. CT on Saturday and will be available on ESPN+. Chucki Kempf and Missy Heidrick will be on call.

What fans need to know about Oklahoma vs. Kansas State

  • Only West Virginia has a worse field goal percentage than Kansas State (41.8), but the Wildcats rank third in the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage (34, 5) and lead the league in three points per game (8.4).
  • Three Kansas State starting guards are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Nijel Pack, the Big 12’s fourth-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game. Pack is also the conference’s best three-point shooter, averaging 43.7 percent from long range. Markquis Nowell is averaging 12.6 points per game and Missouri transfer Mark Smith is averaging 12.2.
  • KSU’s Nowell leads the Big 12 in steals, averaging 2.2 per game.
  • Not only does K-State shoot the three-ball well, but the Cats defend it well too. K-State ranks 19th nationally in three-point defense and field goal percentage, holding opponents at 29.4%.
  • Three Oklahoma starters are averaging double digits in scoring: Tanner Groves (12.3 per game), Umoja Gibson (11.8) and Jordan Gold Thread (10.4).
  • Tanner Groves has had a double-double (double digits in points and rebounds) in each of his last two games.
  • The Sooners are second in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (74.8).
  • Oklahoma has held its last two opponents (Oklahoma State and West Virginia) to less than 40 percent shooting.

Prediction

As much as I want to pick Oklahoma to win Saturday at Kansas State and turn the curse of the Bramlage Coliseum on its ear — because an earlier victory would allow them to avoid a play-in game in the Big 12 tournament of the next week and, more importantly, keep their narrow but real possibility of making the NCAA Tournament alive — the Sooners have shaken my confidence one too many times this season in these situations.

K-State has lost four straight games, but three of those losses have been by nine points overall. Add to that the Wildcats playing well, and they’re playing even better at home, where they’ll be on Saturday and where the “Octagon of Doom” has been just that for the Sooners in their last nine trips to Manhattan.

Oklahoma could really use the injured Elijah Harkless In this one. The odds, stakes, and story all work against OU in this one. Kansas State wins by 8+